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Down on the Farm: Who's got next?

Michael Hurcomb
Fantasy Writer
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Do you remember the good ol' days of baseball? Like when the word "pitch count" didn't exist, closers would often go multiple innings to record saves and prospects were given time to develop in the minor leagues.

There's nothing wrong with change, and often change is a good thing. But now that teams are rapidly moving prospects through their farm system, it's getting tougher to guesstimate MLB debuts.

There was a time when a player would get drafted and it would be a few years before we would see him in the majors. Now, guys get drafted and months later they're donning big league uniforms.

This season, we have seen a pair of 2012 first-round picks -- Kevin Gausman and Michael Wacha -- and one second-round pick -- Alex Wood -- make their MLB debuts. Let's not forget that 2012 second-round pick Paco Rodriguez made his debut for the Dodgers last season.

The list goes on and on with players spending little time in the minors, hardly seeing time at the upper levels or even making the jump from the low minors. Some of the more notable names meeting the criteria have been Yasiel Puig, Anthony Rendon, Jose Fernandez and Carlos Martinez.

We truly live in a world where calling a prospect a long-term Fantasy keeper is taboo. And that means bench spots in seasonal formats are being occupied more by minor leaguers than true reserves. Everyone rather not miss out on the next great prospect and bypass a player that could pay immediate, but likely short-lived dividends.

Which leads us into the topic of who is among the next wave of prospects speeding through the minors that could be worth a bench spot in your league?

The Mariners have already begun the transition of bringing up their stars of tomorrow. Mike Zunino is calling games behind the plate, while Brad Miller and Nick Franklin are manning the middle infield. But the call-ups aren't likely to stop with those three.

We're anticipating starting pitchers Danny Hultzen and Taijuan Walker joining the Seattle rotation by season's end. The duo has a combined 19 Triple-A starts, but Hultzen would have likely already been in the majors had a shoulder injury not sidelined him for several weeks. Walker has tossed 11 shutout innings since his promotion from Double-A Jackson. I've been pushing Fantasy owners all season to stash Hultzen as an impact arm, but now I'm changing my tune about Walker, given his surge this season and the recent trend of unlikely promotions.

The Orioles' rotation certainly could use a boost, but look to outfielder Henry Urrutia to provide a lift to the team's offense in the second half. He was recently promoted to Triple-A Norfolk after the organization got a little more comfortable with his defensive and baserunning skills. However, Urrutia can rake. He hit .365 with a .550 slugging percentage and .983 OPS in 52 games at Double-A Bowie, and the Orioles can always stick him at DH if they feel he's too much of a liability in the outfield.

The Red Sox are trying to solidify the back-end of their rotation. Allen Webster hasn't panned out yet and while Felix Doubront has been much better as of late, if the Red Sox don't trust Rubby De La Rosa or Franklin Morales to help the rotation, then Boston could turn to Brandon Workman. After going 10-8 with a 3.50 ERA and 1.10 WHIP in 25 starts last season, the right-hander is 8-2 with a 3.42 ERA and 1.19 WHIP between Double-A and Triple-A this season, while striking out a career-high 9.8 batters per nine innings. He has gone 3-1 with a 3.41 ERA in five starts since his promotion to Triple-A Pawtucket.

The Royals and White Sox are both under .500, but with plenty of games left they are still in the playoff hunt. Even if they fall out of the playoff chase, personnel moves could lead them to promote some of their top pitching prospects, particularly Kansas City's Yordano Ventura and Erik Johnson of the White Sox.

Ventura has struggled a bit since his promotion to Triple-A Omaha, posting a 4.94 ERA in 23 2/3 innings, but if the Royals trade soon-to-be-free-agent Ervin Santana, then Ventura could get the call. Remember, he was in the final pool of players vying for a spot in the rotation this spring.

Most Owned Minor Leaguers (as of 7/3)
Player % owned
1. Will Middlebrooks, 3B, Red Sox 50
2. Oscar Taveras, OF, Cardinals 43
3. Michael Wacha, SP, Cardinals 38
4. Billy Hamilton, OF, Reds 36
5. Ike Davis, 1B, Mets 32
6. Dan Straily, SP, Athletics 31
7. Travis d'Arnaud, C, Mets 30
8. Christian Yelich, OF, Marlins 28
9. Tyler Skaggs, SP, D-Backs 26
10. Trevor Bauer, SP, Indians 25

As for Johnson, the 2011 second-round pick is 9-2 with a 2.21 ERA and 0.95 WHIP in 16 starts between Double-A and Triple-A. The White Sox are unlikely to make the playoffs, so it might be worth giving Johnson a taste of the majors in 2013 so he's ready to compete for a rotation spot next spring.

Lastly, Phillies third baseman Michael Young's name has been mentioned heavily in trade rumors. If the Phillies choose to be sellers at the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, then Young is a strong candidate to be moved. If he's dealt, who replaces Young at the hot corner?

Cody Asche is a strong candidate since he's done well at Triple-A Lehigh Valley, but I'm not convinced Maikel Franco wouldn't leapfrog Asche. After rivaling Miguel Sano as the top power hitter in the pitcher-friendly Florida State League (high Class A), Franco has been on a ridiculous tear since his promotion to Double-A Reading. He hit .431 with a .765 slugging percentage, four home runs and 11 RBI in his first 12 games. If Franco has star potential, then much like Johnson, the Phillies might not wait until next spring to give him a major-league audition.

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Player News
Orioles SP Dylan Bundy (shoulder) scratched from start
by Elliott Smith | Staff Writer
(5:36 pm ET) Orioles prospect Dylan Bundy , who was scheduled to make a start at Double-A Bowie on Tuesday, was scratched Monday with shoulder tightness, per MASNSports. 

Bundy, who is working his way back from Tommy John surgery in 2013, will see a doctor Tuesday to determine the extent of the injury, which could be shoulder tendinitis. 

Bundy hasn't worked more than three innings in any of his 8 minor league starts, where he is 0-3 with a 3.68 ERA. 


Royals' Alex Rios goes 0 for 5 in Triple-A rehab game Monday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5:36 pm ET) Royals right fielder Alex Rios went 0 for 5 while serving as a designated hitter in his rehab debut with Triple-A Omaha on Monday.

Rios is working his way back from a fractured left hand. He was 9 for 28 with one home run, eight RBI and two stolen bases in seven games before suffering the injury.


Reds pitcher Johnny Cueto expected to miss just one start
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(5:35 pm ET) Reds pitcher Johnny Cueto is expected to miss just one start with right elbow stiffness, manager Bryan Price said on Monday per The Cincinnati Enquirer.

Cueto was examined further on Monday after missing his scheduled start on Sunday against the Indians. It was reported to be worse than first anticipated, but Price believes he will be back this week. Cincinnati's ace is 3-4 with a 3.03 ERA and 60 strikeouts in 65 1/3 innings of work this season.


Giants' Hunter Pence collects three hits Monday vs. Brewers
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5:29 pm ET) Giants right fielder Hunter Pence went 3 for 4 with a walk, a double, two RBI and a stolen base in his team's 8-4 win over the Brewers on Monday.

Pence opened his team's series in Milwaukee in fine form, capping a seven-run sixth inning with a two-run double after scoring a run himself earlier in the frame. He's done a great job at the plate since coming back from a broken arm, hitting .342/.390/.500 with one home run, nine RBI and one stolen base in 38 at-bats.


Dodgers SP Brandon Beachy to pitch simulated game Wednesday
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(5:28 pm ET) The Dodgers have announced that sidelined starter Brandon Beachy is set to throw another simulated game Wednesday, then will be on to Camelback Ranch to continue his rehab.

Beachy has been out since August 2013 after undergoing Tommy John surgery. There is no set timetable for his return, but he could be closing in on a rehab assignment sometime in June.


Giants' Nori Aoki homers, steals base Monday vs. Brewers
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5:26 pm ET) Giants left fielder Nori Aoki went 4 for 4 with a walk, a home run, two RBI , two runs scored and a stolen base in his team's 8-4 win over the Brewers on Monday.

Aoki smacked a solo home run in the third and was able to contribute an RBI single during a seven-run sixth inning. His fourth hit could have been ruled an error, but the scorer ultimately gave the visiting leadoff man an infield hit in the eighth inning. Aoki has hit .312 with two home runs, 15 RBI, 20 runs scored and 11 stolen bases in 170 at-bats.


Giants' Tim Lincecum allows four runs in win vs. Brewers
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(5:25 pm ET) Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum picked up a win on Monday, giving up four earned runs on five hits and three walks in five innings while striking out four in his team's 8-4 victory over the Brewers.

Lincecum (5-2) came into the game with three scoreless performances in his last four starts, but the Brewers were able to notch two runs on Khris Davis solo homers in the first and third innings before adding two runs on another homer in the fifth. The offense was able to pick up the starter in the top of the sixth by exploding for seven runs to take the lead for good.

Lincecum owns a 2.56 ERA and 40:24 K:BB ratio in 52 2/3 innings. He's scheduled to face the Braves at home on Saturday.


Brewers RF Ryan Braun blasts 12th home run of the season
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(5:25 pm ET) Brewers right fielder Ryan Braun went 1 for 3 at the plate in Milwaukee's 8-4 loss to the Giants on Monday. Braun did his damage in the fifth inning when he blasted a two-run home run off of Tim Lincecum over the left center field wall, his 12th of the season.

Braun, who also struck out once and drew one walk, is now hitting .272 with 36 RBI in 151 at-bats this season.


Brewers LF Khris Davis blasts a pair of solo home runs Monday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(5:25 pm ET) Brewers left fielder Khris Davis went a perfect 3 for 3 at the plate in Milwaukee's 8-4 loss to the Giants on Monday.

Davis started things off in the first inning when he blasted a solo home run over the right field wall off of Tim Lincecum. Then in the third, Davis did it again, this time taking Lincecum to left center field for his fifth home run of the season.

Davis is now hitting .245 with 16 RBI in 140 at-bats on the season.


Brewers pitcher Kyle Lohse strikes out seven in losing effort
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(5:25 pm ET) Brewers pitcher Kyle Lohse allowed five runs on six hits in 5 1/3 innings of work in Milwaukee's 8-4 loss to the Giants on Monday.

Lohse was cruising along until the sixth inning when the wheels fell off. Lohse allowed four straight baserunners to reach safely, all on singles or walks. Brandon Belt also scored on a throwing error. Lohse was pulled after that, but was still tagged for two more runs when the next two batters both singled home runs.

Lohse, now 3-5, moved his ERA to 5.80 in 59 innings of work this season. He will look to rebound on Sunday against the Diamondbacks.


 
 
 
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